Governors, in their role as college leaders, are expected to give sufficient forethought to anticipating upcoming trends which could pose a threat or an opportunity to the college. They are required to set strategic objectives that define where they want the college to go, how far and how fast.
The Board, based on proposals by the CEO/Principal, will need to define the purpose of their particular college, and this purpose or mission will inform what strategic choices are made. The overarching purpose of any college is to bring value to is students, most usually through attainment of qualifications. Only by bringing such value to its students, can the college create value for other stakeholders. The Board is responsible for the oversight of this value creation, balancing short term performance with long term sustainability. Once purpose is defined, vision and values should be established and a strategy formulated and implemented.
Role of the Governing Body in setting strategy, vision and values
The Board is responsible for defining the organisational purpose, setting the vision and values of the college, having oversight of the implementation of strategy and measuring its impact. It is the CEO/Principle's responsibility to turn strategic priorities agreed by the Board, into a strategic plan. As the strategic plan is the long-term plan, the CEO/Principal and senior leaders will then break this down further into a quality improvement plan (QIP) for the next academic year.
The vision will be the desired future position of the college - it should be aspirational, clearly defined so all stakeholders can understand and engage with it, and should have student progress and achievement at its heart.
When reviewing the college's vision, governors should ask:
- Do governors and stakeholders clearly understand the college's vision?
- How well to staff understand how their contribution helps achievement of the vision?
- Has the college defined and developed the capability required to fulfil the vision?
- Are the strategic objectives closely linked to achievement of the vision?
- Is the college's vision suitably resilient to stand the test of time?
- Do the college's stakeholders know and understand the college's vision?
- How successfully is performance monitored in order to ensure achievement of the college's vision?
The values of the college, as defined by the Board, should set the ethos and culture of the college. They should clearly define what is good and proper, thereby clarifying and enabling acceptable behaviour by all within the college community.
Strategy Effectiveness Questionnaire
One of the Board's key functions is stewardship - to steer the organisation by setting strategy, and then to have oversight of the achievement of the strategy. To support Boards in this role, there is a questionnaire below to frame thinking, measure engagement, and stimulate activity in the area of strategic work.
Role of the Governance Professional in enabling strategy
The role of the Governance Professional is much more than just administrative. When working optimally, it brings strategic leadership, being a vital link between the executive and the board, facilitating the delivery of organisational objectives. This strategic leadership happens in many ways:
- Through discretionary influence over the flow of information to the board - what, when and how much, allows the Governance Professional to affect opinions, perceptions and actions
- By observing governors in action, the Governance Professional can advise the Board on any skills gaps and actively influence through recruitment activity, the make-up of the Board
- Through building effective relationships with senior leaders and governors, the Governance Professional understands the motivations of the key decision makers and can align the interests of the different parties around the table
- By giving advice and guidance on regulatory, compliance and best practice, the Governance Professional can affect the structure and process of governance, improving decision making at Board level.
- Through constant review of business and agenda planning to ascertain what proportion of the Board's agenda addresses strategy, and whether this is sufficient.
These leadership practices often take place out of sight, in a discrete and unassuming fashion, but can have considerable impact in supporting the Board on its strategic journey, and on the ability of organisational objectives to be met.
The Governing Body's role in organisational culture
Culture is often described as “the way we do things here” and influences people’s day-to-day behaviour. Culture is formed of the values and shared beliefs at a deep and often unconscious level and the culture and character of a organisation become its ethos. Because culture has such an all encompassing impact, the cultural tone of the college needs to be set from the top; if it isn’t, a strong culture aligned with the college’s objectives won’t simply happen of its own accord. Governors must be aware of the way culture pervades the whole organisation.
Governors can ask a number of questions to understand and oversee a college's culture:
- Is there a clear understanding by senior executives of the colleges culture? Has it been measured and its progress tracked over time?
- If the college has merged, does it understand the impact this has had on its culture and what mitigation has management put in place?
- Is there an understanding of how culture affects the college's ability to attract and retain staff?
- What are employees and others saying about the organisation on social media and review sites and does this reflect the agreed college values?
- When evaluating the CEO/Principal's performance and remuneration, is the college's culture considered?
- Are the drivers of behaviours of senior leaders considered?
- What part does consideration of culture, values and ethos play in the recruitment of governors and senior leaders?
- Is the college at risk of encouraging unethical behaviour by setting objectives that are too demanding and short-sighted?
Any of the above can inform conversations between the Chair and Governance Professional, as part of the Chair's role in Board leadership and the Governance Professional's supporting role in such.
In 2016, the Financial Reporting Council published Corporate Culture and the Role of Boards, which gives further insight into this topic.
Ethical governance can be defined as the set of management rules, practices, and processes, specifically and explicitly driven by moral principles, and high ethical standards are the cornerstone of good governance. Ethical Governance refers to values and ethical behaviours, processes, procedures, culture, ways of doing and being that ensure high standards of performance, economy, effectiveness, efficiency, quality, and satisfaction.
Educational institutions are focusing more attention on their ethical responsibilities, what goes beyond their legal responsibilities. Moral principles apply to the conduct of individuals and the organisation as a whole. FE institutions should create ethical learning environments, in which very different students, sometimes coming from diverse communities, can learn the principles and traditions of particular professional practice, acquire and foster knowledge, and develop skills to help them become responsible citizens and ethical leaders. However, moral responsibilities are much broader than this, as ethical issues are manifold and arise in a wide range of situations, including those relating to the teaching and learning process, but also linkages to the broader society.
Why should we tackle ethics? There are a range of reasons for FE institutes to do so, namely: governance, upholding an organisation’s mission and values, guidance for staff, guidance for students, risk and reputation, legislation, pressure from students and other interested parties, recruiting staff and attracting students, and encouraging funding, sponsorship and business involvement.
Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education
The Ethical Leadership Commission was established because of concerns expressed by The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) members and others about the lack of guiding principles for ethical leadership in education. The resulting Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education provides the profession with principles to support leaders in their decision-making and in calling out unethical behaviour.
A Framework for Boards on Engaging With Generative AI
We are facing a period of disruption and disorder, and we need boards to show us the way. Artificial Intelligence is one of the crucial technologies for solving our most critical business and society challenges for a more sustainable world. Board work is already a very challenging and complex task, and AI will bring that challenge to a new level. The guidance note below is to help boards prepare for the leveraging of predictive intelligence and prepare for the advent of further AI evolution. The download highlights some practical guidelines that can provide focus for how a Board could approach this hugely important development.
Template AI Governance & Ethics Framework
This framework is a simple, practical, and flexible tool for anyone in the FE sector involved in AI. With the approval of Charity Excellence, we have adapted their Charity AI Governance & Ethics Framework to fit the FE sector. Simply add, amend, or delete to meet your needs. Before you get started, maybe read these 25 questions you should ask yourself about AI, from the Wall Street Journal, to challenge your thinking. This framework can be used by FE institutions to:
- Create an AI framework for your institution and/or.
- Embed relevant aspects in your existing procedures, such as.
- Data protection, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) and ethical fundraising policies.
Checklist for Governance Engagement of AI
A Guidance Note on a Checklist for Governance Engagement for AI, is available for download below.
Running a Board Strategic Away Day - Guidance Note
A Guidance Note on Running a Board Strategic Away Day/Planning Session, is available for download here.